ATAC: My new formula for beating procrastination

- May 3, 2016 3 MIN READ

Between emails pinging, social media calling and desks needing tidying, it feels like procrastination has reached epidemic proportions. Luckily Lucinda Lions has discovered a fierce vaccine for beating procrastination.

Breaking news! The global strain of procrastination has mutated and become resistant to my previous vaccine. Yikes!

Don’t worry, my newest and fiercest treatment provides targeted relief for even the most stubborn and severe cases.

Procrastination: ‘ATAC’ it at the source

ATAC stands for:

  • Aggressive deadline
  • ‘This won’t be pretty’
  • Accountability
  • Consequence and/or reward

How it works. Let’s break it down.

1. Aggressive deadline

Set an aggressive but attainable deadline.

When setting a deadline, we generally know we can complete the task faster, but usually allow a generous buffer for incessant and extensive desk tidying.

If a project deadline is five days, can it actually be finished in three? If a task usually takes an hour, could it be done in 15 minutes?

When setting your deadline, keep in mind you want to work as fast and focused as possible without being completely and utterly stressed out. Aggressive. But attainable.

2. This won’t be pretty

After setting your deadline, use the ‘This won’t be pretty’ model, which means you acknowledge your first attempt will be terrible. (Caveat: This is, of course, not possible for certain lines of work, like (say) brain surgery!)

By removing expectation and perfectionism you’re free to get started, keep going, and complete the first attempt. After all, you can’t edit, revise or refine something that hasn’t been created yet.

3. Accountability

It’s important that someone checks you’ve met your deadline. If you don’t have a family member, friend or colleague you can trust, consider hiring a coach.

Most importantly, you need a buddy who cares enough to hold you to account. Someone who will remind you about your deadline, check your work, and not be afraid to take the next step, which is…

4. Consequence and/or reward

If you don’t meet your deadline, your actions must be met with a consequence – a consequence that you come up with, because you know what you least want to do. (It needs to be something you’re emotionally and physically comfortable doing, but that you really don’t want to do.)

My current consequence is to accompany my partner and German Shepherd for a run at 5am. If I even entertain the thought of procrastinating, I think about gasping for breath in the cold, dewy morn, and my mind is firmly back on track.

However, working toward a consequence may not be ideal for you. Perhaps you’re more motivated by rewards? Or maybe you prefer both: a consequence if you don’t meet the deadline, a reward if you do.

My reward? The fact I don’t have to deal with the consequence!

The ATAC model in action

I used to allow myself one day to write the first draft of a monthly Flying Solo article, which I’d complete amidst other tasks on my to-do list. But my focus was sometimes scattered, and I’d generally take longer than was necessary.

So this month I ‘ATAC-ed’ it – for the first draft of this article, I moved the deadline from eight hours to 50 minutes.

How did I go?

I wrote furiously, remained 100% focused, and was slightly on edge without feeling completely stressed out. There wasn’t even one second to procrastinate. Also, I stopped over-thinking and over-editing. I just wrote. The result was I got more done in less time and felt fulfilled, productive and happy.

Use it for any or all stages of a project

I could have chosen to use the same process for editing the article toward its final version, but it wasn’t necessary. I only needed to ATAC the first draft, which is when I’m at my Facebook-finding worst.

Maybe this process could work for you too?

Next time you find yourself filing away emails or Googling facts about meerkats, consider ATAC-ing your to-do tasks. Set an aggressive deadline, expect a dodgy first attempt, be accountable to someone and accept the consequence and/or reward based on your output.

This process might just help you attack procrastination forever … or at least until the next strain of procrastination rears its ugly, YouTube-loving head. Good luck!

What are your thoughts on beating procrastination? How do you deal with procrastination?